Effect of habitat disturbance on distribution and abundance of Papyrus endemic birds in Sio Port Swamp, Western Kenya

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STELLAH NEKESA WANYONYI
EVANS MUNGAI MWANGI
NATHAN GICHUKI

Abstract

Wanyonyi SN, Mwangi EM, Gichuki N. 2018. Effect of habitat disturbance on distribution and abundance of Papyrus endemic birds in Sio Port Swamp, Western Kenya. Bonorowo Wetlands 2: 49-60. Papyrus (Cyperus papyrus) swamps are found patchily around the shores of Lake Victoria mainly along river inflows. The objective of this study was to investigate the distinct forms of habitat disturbance and their implications on the distribution and abundance of papyrus endemic birds. Data on bird counts, habitat quality, and types of disturbance were collected for six months, from October 2013 to March 2014. Total bird counts were established using Timed Species Count (TSC) and playback call technique at every fixed point. The researcher waited for 1 minute, calls of the study species were played to elicit a response of the secretive papyrus endemic birds. The number of each bird's species seen or heard within a radius of 25 meters was recorded for the next 9 minutes before transferring to the next point count. Habitat quality such as height, density, and level of maturity was determined in 1 m2 plots along transverse transects. Opportunistic observations were made to establish forms of disturbance present during vegetation and bird surveys. Papyrus endemic birds were highly distributed in sites with pure papyrus (55.58%) than in places with mixed plants (44.42%). The abundance of three endemic birds, White-winged Swamp-warbler, Papyrus Gonolek, and Northern Brown-throated Weaver, was significantly different in mixed and pure papyrus sites. However, the abundance of Greater Swamp-warbler was not significantly different in mixed and pure papyrus sites in Sio Port Swamp during the study period. Forms of habitat disturbance established were vegetation clearing and invasion by terrestrial and aquatic plants. As many as 76.47% of papyrus vegetation were young and regenerated (0-2 m high), 19.65% were immature papyruses (2-4 m) whereas 3.88% were tall mature papyruses (4-6 m high). The abundance of papyrus endemic birds was positively and significantly correlated with the density of vegetation in height ranging from 4-6 m. Thus, any change in papyrus density changed the abundance of papyrus endemic birds. Advance management of papyrus clearing is necessary for the long-term conservation of biodiversity.

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